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What is the School for Poetic Computation?
School for Poetic Computation (SFPC) is a hybrid of school, artist residency and research group where students develop a deep curiosity of what it means to work poetically in computational media. SFPC began as a school run by artists for artists. In the past we have held a combinations of two-week and ten-week intensive sessions.
SFPC is not a technical bootcamp, it is an opportunity to work with a group of faculty, visiting artists, and peers to focus on exploring artistic practice through computation. Computation is poetic when technology is used for critical thinking and aesthetic inquiry – a space where logic meets electricity (hardware), math meets language (software) and analytical thinking meets creative experimentation (theory).
This article featuring two teachers provides more insight on what teaching and learning feels like at SFPC or you can check out some of the student’s blogs from previous sessions: Yeseul, Chris, Toru, Andy, Sarah and Robby. Finally, our FAQ.
Who are we looking for?
We are looking for autodidacts from all backgrounds who are curious, generous and open. Anyone with a passion to explore poetic computation is invited and celebrate diversity in all forms. We expect that you are eager to experiment, learn from failure and come fully dedicated to this ten week experience meaning you will commit to engage with SFPC full-time.
In the past, we have had students with a broad array of technical experiences and we were delighted, though unsurprised, that everyone had something to learn from each other. A group of faculty leads a selection process that is based on applicant’s answers to an application form, work samples, and short interviews. Upon acceptance, a selection of reading and prep work will be assigned to you to complete prior to attending SFPC.
What is expected of me?
Acceptance into the session is an invitation to join the SFPC community. Full-time participation during the ten weeks is mandatory. This also means you come prepared to all of the classes, do the homework, and engage with the community. We expect our students to be in the school between 10am~5pm, Monday to Friday.
It’s also expected that you work openly – sharing what you learn along the way and collaborate with your peers. The success of the session for the group is dependent on engaged participation throughout the term. By participating you will be actively shaping an emerging culture of open source and transparent education.
What are classes like?
SFPC’s main program takes place over ten weeks in New York City with daily classes that range from programming, electronics, and the history and theory of art and technology. There are student-led skill sharing sessions, lectures and workshops with visiting artists, visits to institutions, schools, art spaces and dinners with special guests.
We select up to 12 participants a session. Classes vary in length and are usually held Monday-Friday between 10am and 5pm. Students have full access to the space to work on projects between classes with teachers and mentors readily available for technical, conceptual, and artistic guidance. Peer to peer collaboration is highly encouraged among participant. We celebrate with a final student showcase where students get to share their projects with the larger SFPC community.
Classes are typically structured around the following concepts:
- Computation and artistic practice — Algorithmic processes and concepts have been manifest in art and design throughout the twentieth century. How can we explore the influence of algorithms in practice and develop new approaches and techniques for utilizing them? What is the fundamental nature of computation and how can we work with it in a lyrical, expressive manner? How can code make things move in compelling and lifelike ways through animation and interaction?
- Pedagogy, strategies for learning and teaching — How do you learn new things? What sorts of environments and communities foster a nurturing space and an ongoing practice of learning?
- Language design as creative practice — Every programming language has specific parameters and demands certain processes in its use, we consider the subtle differences and approaches that have shaped various languages throughout history. This area focuses also on ways to design programming languages from scratch and asks how can language design open up new ways of thinking, making and building software? How can we build better tools and with that, better possibilities for ourselves?
- Electronics and physical computing — What are the fundamental building blocks for electronic computer? How do transistors, resistors and capacitors work? How can we use binary logic gates to create adding and remembering machines? How does CPU work? How have micro-controllers made physical computing more accessible?
- Theory and philosophy for technology — With contemporary society and our collective future irrevocably changed by ubiquitous technology, what critical questions can we, the makers, artists and technologists pose to society? What can we learn from the history of technology and how can we draft the future we like to see?
- Urban space and architecture - We will explore playful intervention in the public space. What are interesting ways of connecting spaces? skateboarding?
- Building the commons — The degree of access to artistic computational tools is largely a product of race, gender, sexuality, geography, and class. How can we use our skills and resources to bridge these divides? This area focuses on developing teaching tools, systems, and approaches to help bring poetic computation to diverse communities.
The idea behind these interconnected topics is to build on SFPC’s core curriculum by exploring common ground where we can take the ideas developed in our classroom into the streets and studio. We see them as platforms to help promote fearless prototyping, asking difficult questions, and creating projects that embody issues that are not yet commonly addressed in the art / tech world.
How can I help SFPC?
We are actively seeking private, corporate and institutional support to open our door to more diverse students. If you are interested in sponsoring a student, email email@example.com. We are able to receive tax-deductible donations through our fiscal sponsor.
Where is SFPC?
We are located in 155 Bank street, in the courtyard of the Westbeth Artists Community in the West Village, New York City.
Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions about the school: firstname.lastname@example.org
SFPC is the best place you can explore your interest as much as you want and the place you start to write your own poem.
SFPC is not really a school or a course — it is more like a door into an extraordinary world. It is driven by passion, kindness and the thrill of teaching and learning. I would love to live those inspiring weeks all over again.
SFPC was amazing — life-changing even — i want to do all this stuff for the rest of my life!
I've never been consistently surprised and inspired as much as at SFPC.
If you think SFPC is what you think, that will be wrong. SFPC is a space for a group of people who badly want to try something new. SFPC will become a spirit embedded in your blood which makes you think things with a different angle, just like its motto: more poetry, less demo.
I learned a lot at SFPC. It was only a 2 week program last time, but I learned many things from other participants and got the chance to explore and fail freely. SFPC helped me to reshape the way I think. It's your turn.
School For Poetic Computation is equal parts The Factory, childhood blanket fort, and mad scientist's lab. I learned a ton from the teachers and the whole SFPC community in a huge collaborative and exploratory environment.
Attending SFPC is like walking into an all day buffet supplied with food from hyper-talented chefs. There's more than you could ever consume, naturally, and you will most likely find yourself requiring a digestion period, but holy crap is it tasty.
My takeaway from SFPC: Never settle for code that isn't at least a little bit magic
In SFPC I found a great community and it gave me the confidence to take on coding projects I couldn't have done before.
SFPC is the purest, most honest exchange of knowledge and experience among peers I have ever experienced. It is a supportive space where everyone learns from everyone, and bridges are built that continue to be strengthened for years to come. You won’t get a certificate or a title at the end of it, but I would be amazed if you ever looked at your world the same again. I haven’t.